Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 | 10:40 p.m.
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- Mountain Best: Rebels climb up the rankings after big victory against Air Force
- UNLV football prepares to finally take show on the road Saturday at Utah State
- UNLV linebacker Tani Maka earns weekly defensive honor from the Mountain West
- Rebels earn their breaks and celebrate hard-fought 38-35 victory against Air Force
- Analysis: Hauck deserves time to transform UNLV football into a winner
- Keep your composure: Defending Air Force one of the more unique challenges in football
- Mountain Best: UNR tops the Sun’s initial Mountain West college football rankings
- UNLV needs better pickup lines as it enters difficult stretch of the schedule
- All UNLV Football Coverage
LOGAN, Utah — The Vegas kid provided the knockout, but it was the kids playing for Las Vegas who delivered all the body blows leading up to it.
UNLV hurt itself with the same old routine — untimely penalties and bad coverage against the pass — but this time there was a new twist. Twice in the third quarter the Rebels had the ball inside the five-yard line and twice they came away with field goals. Replace those, or even just one of them, with a touchdown and maybe things play out differently. You never know how the game will go, but missed points against a good team have a way of sneaking back up on you.
“We left a lot of points out there,” quarterback Nick Sherry said. “We didn’t finish.”
Once the fourth quarter hit the Aggies (4-1) turned on the jets and left the Rebels (1-4) grasping at air on screen passes and trying to figure out how it got out of hand so quickly in a 35-13 loss at Romney Stadium.
Utah State, with some substantial credit due to UNLV’s defense, left the door open with a lackluster third quarter. In fact, no team has scored on UNLV in the third quarter this season. The problem is the Rebels often don’t do anything with it. On Saturday they simply didn’t do enough.
UNLV forced and recovered a fumble on the first play of the second half and two plays later the offense was at the five. From there running back Tim Cornett, who finished with a season-low 36 yards, lost two on a stretch run to the right. An incompletion later and the Rebels kicked a field goal and trailed 20-10.
On UNLV’s next two defensive drives they got an interception and forced a three-and-out, giving the offense more chances to make something happen. Sherry led the team down to the four, where on the 15th play of the drive he appeared to dive into the end zone on fourth down before fumbling. The play was whistled dead for a false start on a wide receiver, and UNLV again trotted out the field-goal unit to pull within 20-13.
Three plays later Valley grad Kerwynn Williams, a senior running back at Utah State, was streaking down the sideline for a 74-yard score off a screen pass. UNLV worked hard and grinded the entire third quarter just to come away with six points. Williams equaled that in one play.
“The past two years we needed every play to win a game like this. Now we don’t,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “We can compete, but we can’t have them have more explosive plays (than us) like we did tonight.”
Williams’ play opened the floodgates and clued the Aggies in to a gaping hole in UNLV’s defense. On their next drive quarterback Chuckie Keeton dumped off another screen pass to Joe Hill, who took it 65 yards and set up what would eventually be Keeton’s fourth touchdown pass. The sophomore finished 20-of-33 passing for 402 yards.
Williams finished with 113 yards on 20 carries and 147 yards, including the touchdown, on seven catches. It was the most receiving yards by a non-receiver at Utah State since 1959.
Williams’ touchdown was on third and nine. Hill’s big gain was on third and seven. A stop on the first one keeps it at seven; a stop on the second gives the Rebels hope with a 14-point deficit and good field position. Neither happened because of a simple play the Rebels and Hauck say they prepared for.
“You look at the score you probably think they ran right through us, but it comes down to certain plays,” said linebacker Tim Hasson, who led the team with eight tackles. “We didn’t give our offense a chance tonight.”
Two weeks ago it was the Rebels’ secondary getting exploited by simple post patterns against Washington State. Stopping the screen, Hauck said, is dependent on the guys up front reading the play and stuffing it before it gets going. He took the blame for not coaching it well enough, though he wasn’t the one out there missing tackles.
The Rebels actually held the Aggies scoreless in the first quarter and kept the opening 30 minutes kind of ugly, which played in their favor. But those third quarter field goals weren’t the only missed opportunities, and if you watched the game it may be surprising to learn UNLV only committed five penalties. That’s because they seemed to come at the worst times. The false start inside the five was a killer, as was senior offensive guard Doug Zismann's blatant personal foul for shoving an Aggie after a play near the end of the second quarter.
UNLV had a chance to pull within three and the worst-case scenario should have been that it came away with no points and went into halftime trailing 17-7. But Zismann’s penalty knocked the Rebels back to the 35 and Sherry was intercepted on the next play, a throw he probably thought was a free play but turned out to be another penalty on UNLV.
With 31 seconds on the clock Keeton led the Aggies down the field, thanks largely to a 45-yard completion to Williams, and Utah State got a field goal for a 20-7 halftime lead.
“It’s a game of four or five plays,” said Hauck, whose team needs to figure out a way to be on the other side of those plays.
Hauck is willing to take the blame and plenty of people are lined up ready to bury him in it. Hasson isn’t among that group. A junior who played at Cimarron, he sees that unlike his previous years this team is capable of stealing some games. The problem is the execution on game day, not the preparation leading up to it.
“If we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot, who knows what our record would be?” Hasson said. “You can’t blame it on the coaches. As players, we’ve got to make the plays. You can’t look at the coaches and say, ‘Oh, the coaches gotta go’ or ‘It’s the coaches’ fault.’ ”
“We’re the ones out there. It’s on us.”